Posts

Top 5 Yorkshire Canal Boat Holidays for 2022

To celebrate Yorkshire Day (1 August), we’ve put together our Top 5 Yorkshire Canal Boat Holidays for 2022.

2022 prices from our Yorkshire bases start at £770 for a short break (three or four nights), £1,155 for a week on a boat for four people.

1. Visit Skipton and its medieval castle

On a short break from our Barnoldswick base, you  can head east along the Leeds & Liverpool Canal to Skipton.  The journey there and back travels 26 miles, passes through 30 locks (15 each way) and takes around 20 cruising hours.  This breath-taking route winds along the contours of the side of Airedale.  There are extensive views of sheep country – farmhouses, barns, stone walls and the occasional village or town.  Once in Skipton, you can moor in the centre of the town to visit shops and restaurants. And explore the 900-year old Skipton Castle, one of the most complete and best preserved medieval castles in England.

2. Sail to the historic market town Selby

On a week away departing from our Sowerby Bridge base, you can cruise to along the Calder & Hebble and the Aire & Calder navigations to Selby.  The journey there and back travels 96 miles, passes through 68 locks (34 each way) and takes around 40 hours.  The route passes through Wakefield, Stanley Ferry, Castleford and Knottingley.  Scenery ranges from leafy cuttings on the Calder & Hebble and farmland along the Aire, to industrial hinterland on the Aire & Calder.  At Selby, you can moor up to explore the ancient Abbey and market, and enjoy a choice of pubs and restaurants.

3. Toddle to Todmorden for some stunning Pennine scenery

On a short break from Sowerby Bridge, you can travel along the Rochdale Canal to Todmorden.  The journey there and back travels 20 miles, passes through 34 locks (17 each way) and takes around 16 hours.  This historic town offers visitors fine Victorian architecture, plenty of pubs and restaurants, and a busy market.  Along the way, you’ll pass through the village of Mytholmroyd, the birthplace of Ted Hughes. And the old mill town of Hebden Bridge, nestled in a fork in the hills, with an amazing variety of shops, cafes, restaurants and pubs.  There are also a series of scenic waymarked walks to enjoy.

4. Cruise to Rishton for a trip through industrial history

On a week’s holiday from Barnoldswick, you can travel west along the Leeds & Liverpool Canal to Rishton and back.  The journey there and back travels 53 miles, passes through 14 locks (seven each way) and takes around 20 hours.  The route begins on the summit before plunging into Foulridge Tunnel, then down to Barrowford Locks.  After 20 miles on one level, you’ll sail above Burnley’s rooftops on its famous embankment, one of the Seven Wonders of the Waterways.  The Weavers Triangle visitor centre at Burnley is a good place to visit. Then carry on through largely open scenery and the historic town of Rishton, the first place calico cloth was woven on an industrial scale.  The trip includes spectacular views of the Lancashire Calder Valley and Pendle Hill, famous for its witches.

5. Journey to the Hepworth Wakefield

On a mid-week break from Sowerby Bridge, you can travel to Wakefield and back to visit the fabulous Hepworth Wakefield Art Gallery.  The journey travels 40 miles, passes through 52 locks (26 each way) and takes around 22 cruising hours. There are narrow boat moorings right outside the Hepworth Wakefield.  The Gallery offers over 1,600 square metres of light-filled gallery spaces to explore. As well as works by the British artist and sculptor Barbara Hepworth, there are works on display by Henry Moore, Antony Gormley, David Hockney, Paul Nash, Bridget Riley and Anthony Caro.

Top 10 Summer Canal Boat Holidays for 2022

Travelling through the countryside at just four-miles-an-hour, canal boat holidays are the fastest way to slow down.

You don’t need a licence and it’s easy to learn how to steer a narrowboat.

Drifters offers 550 narrowboats for hire from 45 bases across England, Scotland and Wales.  Our summer holiday prices for a short break (three or four nights) on a boat for four people start at £979, and at £1,530 for a week.

Tuition is included as part of all our holiday packages.

All our narrowboats have heating, well-equipped kitchens, quality furnishings, flushing toilets, hot water, showers, TVs and DVD players, and many now have WiFi on board too.

Here are our top 10 summer destinations for 2022:

  1. Visit Skipton and its medieval castle

On a short break from our Barnoldswick boatyard, narrow boat holiday-makers can head east along the Leeds & Liverpool Canal to Skipton and back.  The journey travels a total of 26 miles, passes through 30 locks (15 each way) and takes around 20 hours.  This breath-taking route winds along the contours of the side of Airedale, with extensive views of sheep country – farmhouses, barns, stone walls and the occasional village or town.  Once in Skipton, you can moor in the centre of the town, visit shops and restaurants and explore Skipton Castle, one of the most complete and best preserved medieval castles in England.

  1. Glide through the Usk Valley to Brecon and back

From our base at Goytre Wharf near Abergavenny, on a week’s break you can navigate through the wooded Usk Valley to the pretty market town of Brecon, in the heart of the Brecon Beacons National Park.  Brecon offers theatre, cinema, cafes and restaurants and east access to the National Park, with walking routes, cycle hire and pony trekking.  Along the way, you can stop off at Llanfoist to take the old tramway into the Black Mountains, visit the 13th century caste at Crickhowell and walk to the Blaen y Glyn waterfalls at Talybont-on-Usk.  The total journey there and back travels 51 miles, passing through 12 locks (six each way) and takes around 25 hours.

  1. Cruise along the River Thames to Oxford

On a short break from our canal boat hire base on the River Thames at Eynsham near Witney, you can reach the beautiful City of Oxford in just three hours.  Most of the locks on the Thames are manned so it’s a nice easy journey for beginners.  Once in Oxford, you can moor up a short walk from the City Centre, and take time to explore some of the historic attractions.  Climb the Carfax Tower for views across the City of Dreaming Spires, visit the Bodleian Library with its stunning 17th century Schools Quadrangle, and explore the University of Oxford’s Ashmolean Museum of Art & Archaeology.

  1. Travel the Warwickshire Ring

On a two-week holiday from our Napton base on the Grand Union Canal, you can navigate the popular Warwickshire Ring.  The route follows 104 miles of urban and rural waterways, passes through 120 locks and takes around 54 cruising hours. Highlights include: the awesome Flight of 21 locks at Hatton; Warwick Castle; Cadbury World; and Birmingham’s Brindleyplace, home to the Sea Life Centre.

  1. Glide across the awesome Pontcysyllte Aqueduct

Passing through stunning North Wales landscapes, the Llangollen Canal is one of the most popular waterways on the network.  On a short break from our base at Chirk, you can travel to the pretty Eisteddfod town of Llangollen and back.  Along the way, you’ll cruise the 11 miles of the Llangollen Canal that is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, including the awesome Chirk and Pontcysyllte aqueducts.

  1. Travel along the peaceful Ashby Canal to Shakerstone

On a week’s holiday from our Braunston base on the Grand Union Canal in Northamptonshire, you can explore the beautiful Ashby Canal.  With no locks, and mile-upon-mile of countryside to enjoy, this peaceful 22-mile long waterway passes the pretty town of Market Bosworth and the site of the Battle of Bosworth Field.  The journey to Shakerstone and back, travels 95 miles, passes through eight locks (four each way) and takes around 37 hours.

  1. Navigate through the Scottish Lowlands to Edinburgh

From our base at Falkirk, Edinburgh Quay is an 11-hour, 32-mile journey along the Union Canal, perfect for a mid-week break.  The journey starts with a trip through the world’s first rotating boat lift, the Falkirk Wheel. You’ll then pass through two tunnels and soon after across the magnificent Avon Aqueduct.  Then it’s on through the lovely lowland villages of Linlithgow, Broxburn and Ratho.  Visitor moorings are available at Edinburgh Quay, just a five-minute walk from Princes Street and many of the City’s top attractions.

  1. Cruise to the National Waterways Museum at Ellesmere Port

On a week’s holiday from our base at Bunbury on the Shropshire Union Canal, you can reach the National Waterways Museum at Ellesmere Port.  The museum brings together a unique fleet of historic boats, docks, warehouses, forge, stables and workers cottages, collections and archives, to tell the story of Britain’s canals.  It takes around 11 hours to cruise to the National Waterways Museum from our boat yard on the Shropshire Union Canal at Bunbury.  The journey there and back travels 22 miles and passes through 32 locks (16 each way).

  1. Visit Georgian Bath afloat

On a short break from our canal boat hire base at Devizes, you can navigate to the beautiful World Heritage Status City of Bath.  The journey there and back travels 39 miles of the Kennet & Avon Canal, passes through 20 locks (10 each way) and takes around 19 cruising hours.  Along the way, you’ll pass a series of canalside pubs, and you’ll cross over the beautiful Bath stone Avoncliff and Dundas aqueducts.  There are moorings at Sydney Wharf, a 15-minute walk from Bath City centre.

  1. Cruise through the Shropshire countryside to Market Drayton

On a four night break from our base at Brewood on the Shropshire Union Canal, you can reach the historic market town of Market Drayton.  Along the way, you’ll pass through a series of villages with canalside pubs, including the Junction Inn at Norbury and the Royal Oak at Gnosnall.  And through tunnels of trees in the deep canal cuttings. The total journey there and back travels 42 miles, passes through 12 locks and takes around 19 hours.

Top 9 canalside events in 2022

Britain’s canals and rivers host hundreds of exciting events each year, bringing people to the waterways and celebrating the things that make them special.

These events make great destinations for canal boat holiday-makers, so we’ve put together our top nine events for 2022, along with information on our nearest canal boat hire bases:

  1. Easter Boat Gathering, Friday 15 April to Monday 18 April

The annual Easter Boat Gathering at the National Waterways Museum at Ellesmere Port marks the official start of the cruising season.  Over the weekend, dozens of boats will moor up across the Museum’s seven-acre site and visitors can enjoy live music, children’s activities, workshop tours and historic boats.  Drifters’ nearest narrowboat hire bases are at Bunbury and Anderton, both on the Shropshire Union Canal.

  1. IWA Canalway Cavalcade, Saturday 30 April to Monday 2 May

This annual event at Little Venice celebrates the best in life on the waterways in London.  The event includes live music, an illuminated boats procession and kids’ entertainment.  Drifters’ nearest base is at Aldermaston on the Kennet & Avon Canal.

  1. St Richard’s Canal Festival, Friday 29 April to Monday 2 May

This annual event organised by the Worcester & Birmingham Canal Society takes place in Vines Park alongside the Droitwich Barge Canal.  Visitors can enjoy live music, boats, classic cars, art workshops, community stalls, a real ale bar and the annual ‘Great Droitwich Duck Race’ with over 1,000 plastic ducks competing.  Drifters’ nearest canal boat rental bases are Worcester and Stoke Prior.

  1. Rickmansworth Canal Festival, Saturday 21 May to Sunday 22 May

Celebrating canals, the community and the environment, the annual Rickmansworth Canal Festival attracts over 100 canal boats from across the country.  Occupying part of the Aquadrome and the Grand Union Canal towpath between Stockers Lock and Batchworth Lock, the event hosts a range of music, performing arts, displays, presentations, traders and catering.  Drifters’ nearest canal boat hire base is on the Grand Union Canal at Braunston.

  1. Crick Boat Show, Friday 3 June to Sunday 5 June

Three hundred exhibitors will gather at Crick Marina on the Leicester Line of the Grand Union Canal near Daventry, to showcase thousands of inland waterways products and services across the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee Weekend.  Now Britain’s biggest inland waterways festival, Crick Boat Show offers visitors free boat trips, over 50 boats to look around, live music and a wide variety of food and drink stalls.  Drifters’ nearest narrow boat hire bases are at Gayton, Braunston and Market Harborough.

  1. Chester Dragon Boat Festival, Sunday 10 July

This annual and very colourful charity event on the River Dee in Chester sees over 20 dragon boat teams of up to 16 paddlers and a drummer battling to become the champions.  Drifters’ nearest narrowboat hire rental centres are Bunbury, Anderton and Brewood.

  1. Llangollen International Musical Eisteddfod, Thursday 7 July to Sunday 10 July

Every year thousands of people descend on the pretty town of Llangollen on the Llangollen Canal to celebrate dance, music, costume and culture.  The Llangollen Eisteddfod is celebrating its 75th anniversary this year with four days of live music events, including Alec Jones and Russell Watson performing together to open the programme.  Drifters’ nearest canal boat hire bases are at Trevor, Chirk and Blackwater Meadow.

  1. Stone Food & Drink Festival, Friday July 15 to Sunday 17 July 2022

Staffordshire’s biggest celebration of all things gastronomic takes place at the Georgian market town of Stone on the Trent & Mersey Canal.  The festival will host cookery demonstrations and talks, licensed bars, street food, live music and family fun.  Drifters’ nearest narrowboat rental bases are Great Haywood, Brewood and Peak District.

  1. Stratford upon Avon Food Festival, Saturday 17 September to Sunday 18 September

This two day annual event in Shakespeare’s Stratford offers cooking demonstrations, workshops, food stalls, live entertainment and competitions.  Drifters’ nearest canal boat hire base is on the Stratford Canal at Wotton Wawen.

 

Multi-generational Narrow Boat Holiday Diary

Towpath Talk editor Janet Richardson recently enjoyed a four-night family break on a Drifters boat, hired from our Stockton base.  Here’s what Janet had to say about her ‘Far from the madding crowd’ multi-generational narrowboat holiday:

Day 1 – from Stockton to Napton Junction (3 miles, 3 locks)

In these days of staycations, families have taken to the British countryside for all sorts of different experiences.

We decided to take a three-generation narrowboat break – myself, my son-in-law and two grandsons.

So on August Bank Holiday Monday 2021, we arrived at Drifters operator Kate Boats’ Stockton base in Warwickshire.  Instructions had been emailed to us prior to arrival, so we knew what sort of procedures to expect.

There were already three cars ahead of us on the roadway down to the boatyard, but we were soon greeted by Mandy and shown where to park.

We quickly shipped all our luggage onto our floating home for the next four days – the 58ft Caroline Mary. Then we let the boys – Oliver 13 and Lewis 10 – explore inside, while Neil and I did the boat handover and tuition with Andrew from Kate Boats.

After a brief introduction, he gave us a checklist of everything to be aware of, such as location of the gas bottles, mooring pins, windlasses and electrical equipment.  He then gave us time to find everything and prepare any questions.

Andrew then showed us the daily checks and how to access the weed hatch if necessary.  He checked we had previous experience of going through locks before winding the boat for us so we were facing in the right direction.  He then accompanied us through the first bridge, where we dropped him off on the towpath.

We were then on our own with 58ft of narrowboat to steer – being sure to remain on tick-over when passing moored boats.

As we went through the three locks at Calcutt, I was very grateful to two female crew members from Eliana who reminded me how to operate the paddles.

We followed Eliana down to Napton Junction where they turned right to head south down the Oxford Canal, while we went left towards Braunston.

After a cheery wave goodbye, we started to look for a suitable spot to moor along the towpath, and soon found an ideal spot about 50 yards below a moored widebeam.

Preparing for our first night afloat, we soon became aware of what we had forgotten to bring! Neil and boys hadn’t got any towels, but I had bought a bath towel and a hand towel – something we were going to have to share! We also didn’t have much food as we had been anticipating eating at a pub, so we ended up with a scratch meal of sausage rolls and pot noodles. At least I had brought a bottle of wine to wash it down!

Having had a pleasant evening playing a board game, and then watching a movie we prepared to settle down for the night. Neil and Lewis occupied the two single bunks in the fore-end, Oliver the converted dinette in the middle and I slept on a single bunk in the saloon.

Away from any street lighting, it seemed very dark but very quiet – a restful end to a busy first day.

Day 2 – Napton Junction to Braunston Marina (5 miles, 0 locks)

It was lovely waking up in compete quiet – no traffic noise or the usual buzz from people going about their daily business.

Our first ‘visitors’ were a family of swans – cob, pen and four cygnets almost as big as their parents, but still with most of their ‘ugly duckling’ plumage. The boys wanted to give them some bread but I explained it wasn’t good for them, and we could try to pick up some duck feed somewhere along the route.

With no time constraints and just a leisurely cruise up to Braunston ahead, we enjoyed a breakfast which Neil conjured up from the contents of the fridge – bacon, egg, beans, tomatoes and bread – almost a full English!  Then we got underway.

The first point to show us exactly where we were on the map in the Nicholson’s ‘Birmingham & Heart of England’ guide, was the fairly sharp right-hand bend under Nimrod Bridge No 108, followed by a left-hander.

We were cruising through some lovely countryside, with cattle and sheep grazing and the only traffic we were aware of was going under the A475 at Bridge No 107. We passed the village of Lower Shuckburgh on the right, and then cruised along a straighter stretch of canal towards Flecknoe.

Some of the older oncoming boats we passed had the great ‘chug chug’ noise. We discovered later there had been a Russell Newbery Register gathering at Braunston over the Bank Holiday weekend.

There was another sequence of bends before the canal straightened up again after Bridge No 100. We knew then that we were approaching ‘civilisation’ as there were more moored boats, and the landmark spire of All Saints’ Church showed us we were nearing the historic canal village of Braunston.

I had been invited by Tim Coghlan to moor for the night at Braunston Marina so we could catch up on the latest news and features for Towpath Talk.  As we turned in under its famous Horseley Iron Bridge, we were met by Tim and directed to a pontoon.

Neil and the boys walked up into the village to visit the butcher’s and supermarket to stock up on supplies.  We then enjoyed a relaxing afternoon – taking the opportunity to pop into Tradline Ropes and Fenders and we also saw the bags of coal ready for loading on to Raymond and Sculptor for the annual Narrow Boat Trust Coal Run.

It was soon time to walk along the towpath up to Lock 3 of the Braunston flight as I had booked a table at the Admiral Nelson. We enjoyed a very tasty evening meal and walked back to our boat as dusk fell on the second day of our trip.

Day 3 – Braunston to the village of Napton on the Hill (6 miles, 0 locks)

After a leisurely breakfast, the boys went up the hill into the village for more supplies, while we prepared to head off on the next leg of our cruise.

After some manoeuvring between the moored boats along the pontoon, we were under the bridge and on our way to the Braunston Turn.

We decided not to try and push on further north up the Oxford Canal, which would put us under pressure when it was time to turn back.  So we turned left back the way we had come, and headed back towards Napton Junction.

We had been following another boat most of the way and they pulled in for a stop along a beautiful stretch of countryside just after Bridge 103. The boys were getting hungry so we decided to do likewise a little further along.

It was beautiful; all you could see was the rolling countryside to the east with fields of grazing sheep and cattle. Apart from the occasional boat coming past, there was no sound or sign of human life!

Much to Oliver’s delight, having bought a bag of duck feed from the dispenser at the lock beside the Admiral Nelson the previous evening, the family of three swans we had passed preening their feathers on the towpath swam into view.

The parents and well-grown cygnet stopped for a snack before heading on their way.  Then the boys and I went for a walk along the towpath, while our skipper had a power nap!

We were soon under way again and instead of turning right at Napton Junction, carried on up the Oxford Canal, aiming to wind before the Napton Flight and find a mooring for the night.

Having spotted some space along the moorings before Bridge 111, we decided to take advantage of the winding hole there.  It proved quite a challenge with our 58ft boat getting its fore-end stuck in the silt, and the stern almost jammed up against the towpath.  Neil had to use the boat pole to push us back.

Luckily a lovely couple from a moored narrowboat we had just passed came to our rescue with instructions from the bank.  This enabled us to complete the manoeuvre while a couple of boats behind us pulled in to wait.

They then helped us to moor just in front of their narrowboat Moondancer. The next morning they went on their way before we had chance to thank them again for their friendliness and help.

Opposite our mooring was a large stubble field with lots of ducks and geese feeding. We also watched what we thought was either a kestrel or a sparrowhawk hovering over the field, and swooping down for its prey several times.

As darkness fell we could see the lights from the village across the field and car headlights on the road leading up to it.

Day 4 – Napton on the Hill back to Stockton (4 miles, 3 locks)

As we prepared to set off on our return journey, another Kate Boats narrowboat Kate Elizabeth came past.  I asked them if they were heading towards Stockton and asked if we could share the locks.

We turned left back onto the Grand Union Canal at Napton junction.  Then cruised up to the Calcutt Locks where the Kate Elizabeth was waiting for a boat coming up the top lock.  We pulled in behind. The occupants were also three generations of a family – grandparents, parents and two children from Gloucester.  They had decided on a week’s holiday boating after a planned trip to Florida had been cancelled.

We stopped at lunchtime and took a walk, then decided to head back to Kate Boat’s base for our last night, so we were handy for the check-in the following morning.

We were lucky to get a space at the front of the moorings, and as the sun showed itself for the first time during the week we went across to the pub for a welcome drink in the garden and booked a table for an evening meal.

Day 5 – back home

It was early to rise ready to return the boat by 9.30am.  We had the bedding stripped and placed in the laundry bag provided and all our bags packed by 7am.  So we pulled over to a vacant space and transported all our luggage to the car.

It wasn’t too long before Mandy arrived and said they were expecting 14 boats in with 11 to go out – so a busy day ahead.

We said our goodbyes and headed home reflecting on what had been a most enjoyable break. Lewis said he liked stopping in a different place every night, while Oliver also said the travelling was the best bit. They had both also enjoyed seeing the wildlife – especially the ducks and swans.

The best part for Neil was steering the narrowboat, although he said he could do with a bit more practice at reversing. And me – the friendliness of everyone we came across, whether seasoned boaters or fellow holidaymakers, and the feeling of being far from the madding crowd.